This vibrant kale pesto recipe comes together in 5 minutes flat! Nutty and bright, it's delicious on pasta, pizza, sandwiches, bowls, and more.
When I have a bunch of kale in the fridge, I almost always save a few leaves to make this kale pesto recipe. I especially love making it in the winter, when basil is out of season. Of course, it doesn’t taste exactly like basil pesto (basil is more aromatic, while kale is more peppery), but it’s still delicious. Extra-virgin olive oil and pepitas make it rich and nutty, and lemon juice adds a lovely bright finish.
The whole recipe requires 8 ingredients and comes together in 5 minutes, so it’s a great one to have in your back pocket. Whizz it together and toss it with pasta for an easy dinner one night, and save the leftover kale pesto for the next day. It’s super versatile, so you’ll have no trouble finding ways to use it. Spoon it over eggs, dollop it on a grain bowl, or slather it on a sandwich. The options are endless!
Kale Pesto Recipe Ingredients
Ready to make kale pesto? Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fresh kale, of course! You’ll just use the leaves and tender stems in this recipe. Save the tough stems for another use. You could blend them into a smoothie or simmer them into soup!
- Garlic – For sharp depth of flavor.
- Pepitas – Pepitas create an especially vibrant green pesto, but if you don’t have them on hand, feel free to substitute another nut or seed. Hemp seeds, walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts all work well.
- Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast – Both options are delicious! Parmesan is traditional for pesto, but if you’re vegan, nutritional yeast is a great substitute. It adds savory, cheesy flavor to this kale pesto recipe.
- Lemon juice – For brightness.
- Extra-virgin olive oil – A pesto essential! It adds richness and moisture to tie the sauce together.
- And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop.
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
How to Make Kale Pesto
You can whizz together this easy kale pesto in 5 minutes flat! Here’s what you need to do:
First, pulse the solid ingredients. Add the garlic and pepitas to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to grind them up. Then, add the nutritional yeast or cheese, salt, and pepper, and pulse again.
Next, add the raw kale leaves and lemon juice. Process until all the ingredients are well-combined.
Then, add the oil. With the blade running, pour the oil into the food processor. Process until the oil is completely incorporated.
Finally, season to taste! Try a spoonful of the sauce and add more salt, pepper, lemon juice, and/or nutritional yeast, as desired. If the kale pesto tastes bitter, add 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup or honey to balance it.
How to Use Kale Pesto
You’ll love having this kale pesto on hand in your kitchen! It’s super versatile, so have fun experimenting with different ways to use it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Toss it with pasta. Use it instead of basil pesto in my Easy Pesto Pasta recipe. For a lighter dish, replace the regular pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
- Spoon it over a frittata or sunny-side-up eggs.
- Swirl it into mac and cheese.
- Scoop it onto a bowl of soup. I love it on my Ribollita, Tortellini Soup, and Tomato Basil Soup!
- Serve it as an appetizer with crusty bread for dipping.
- Slather it onto a Caprese sandwich, a grilled cheese, or any sandwich you like.
- Dot it onto homemade pizza.
- Toss it with roasted veggies for a yummy, healthy side dish. It’d be fantastic with roasted cauliflower, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes!
- Dollop it onto a grain bowl, like this Roasted Veggie Grain Bowl or this Kale Pesto Mushroom Pistachio Bowl.
How do you like to use kale pesto? Let me know in the comments!
More Favorite Sauces and Dressings
If you love this recipe, try one of these sauces or dressings next:
- Marinara Sauce
- Alfredo Sauce
- Romesco Sauce
- Cilantro Lime Dressing
- Green Goddess Dressing
- Tahini Sauce (4 ways!)
- ½ cup pepitas
- 1 small garlic clove
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Heaping ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 packed cups chopped curly kale
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a food processor, pulse the pepitas and garlic until the pepitas are ground up. Add the cheese or nutritional yeast, salt, and several grinds of pepper and pulse again.
- Add the kale and lemon juice. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, and process until combined. Season to taste.
Can this be frozen for later use?
yep, it freezes well!
Just wondering if you can make this with a blender?
Hi Abby, I prefer a food processor for pesto so it doesn’t get too pureed.
This recipe is what gets our children eating copious amounts of kale with no complaints. They love pesto pasta and this is a nutritional upgrade from the basil and equally delicious!
This recipe makes the most delicious thing ever! I love it more than basil pesto by a huge amount. I have put it on everything imaginable. My favorite is on top of sliced hard-boiled eggs which are on toast with mayonnaise. DELISH!!
Just made this and it was so delicious! Thank you! 😍
Mmm, looks delicious! I’ll have to try it out. Could you also do this recipe with spinach? Thanks!
sounds great! Thanks again!
Love this alternative to regular pesto! Do you think spinach pesto would work as well?
Hi Shari, yep! I love spinach pesto.
Have you ever tried doing this with thawed, frozen kale? I have tons in the freezer from my summer garden.
I’m wondering this too. We have a ton of kale in the freezer and want to use it up.
I haven’t, I usually use frozen kale just for smoothies. I think it might work if you squeeze out the excess water after thawing.
Can you make a store for long periods of time?
Hi Candy, you can store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, and you can freeze it to last longer than that.
Just curious if the kale is curly kale or tuscan kale? I am having a hard time figuring it out from the image. Thank you
How long can you keep kale pesto in refrigerator?,..
I keep it 3 to 4 days.
I’m so glad you loved the kale pesto!
I’m so glad you loved it!
I love this recipe and was making it so much last summer and fall that I burned out on it!
I’ve been sheltering in place for almost a month and it’s been difficult to get to the store for fresh produce. So now I have three bunches of kale from my grocery delivery yesterday and I’m going to use at least one for this pesto and then freeze it so I have some greens left. Thanks so much for this awesome recipe! Stay well!
Hi Mary, ha, I’m so glad you’ve loved the recipe… freezing pesto is such a great idea for making fresh groceries last!
I just made a bunch of kale pesto. I did not cook the kale. I also tossed in a jalapeno pepper per batch scince I had a bunch laying around. I plan on using it in soups and frittatas this winter. It’s the only way I can get my husband to eat kale.
Does it matter what kind of kale is used (Dino,curly,etc)?
I used dino, I think curly kale might be fine too (since it all gets blended up anyway).
Does it matter what kind if kale you use (Dino,curly,etc)?
Was in the mood for a kale/walnut pesto tonight, and yours was perfect! In fact I loved it so much, I blogged about it (and of course directed my readers back to your beautiful website). Thank you so much – I know I’ll be returning to L&L on a regular basis – beautiful!
I’ve made a raw version and it comes out well but I have to say it tastes much better blanched (but the raw still tastes better than overcooking it) 🙂
This is a great recipe for using kale in a creative way beyond soups and smoothies! Thank you! Made it tonight for a pasta toss, (tossed with pasta, shrimp, parmesan and kalamata olives). I did add a few basil leaves to the pesto, and loved the addition of the lemon. It was sooo delicious! I think that blanching the kale gives it that bright green color that tends to stay that way for an extended time. I made a lot of it so we will be using it in a variety of ways this week. I think trying it on pizza with roasted tomatoes and feta or mozzarella cheese would be lovely.
so glad you liked it! I hope you’ve continued to enjoy it all week 🙂